By The Nation
Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob has said the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT) didn’t have a policy to close or downgrade any airport in Thailand, including those in Hat Yai and Chiang Rai, and there is no change to the planned expansion of six airports.
The press reports regarding the planned closure of Hat Yai International Airport in Songkhla province and Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport were just misinterpretation, said AOT President Nitinai Sirismatthakarn adding that the real message was that the high-speed train project might lead to fewer clients for both airports. The AOT will draw up a flexible plan to deal with the development, he said.
Passenger traffic at most airports, except Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport, have exceeded capacity. The Chiang Mai Airport is serving 11.32 million travellers annually despite its capacity of 8 million while the Phuket Airport, with 12.5 million in maximum capacity, is struggling with 17.85 million passengers a year.
Hat Yai Airport is serving 4.03 passengers annually, compared to 2.5 million in capacity.
64.71 million people have passed through Suvarnabhumi Airport this year which has a yearly capacity of 45 million as Don Meung Airport served 41.01 clients in spite of its capacity of 30 million. Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport is faring better with 2.95 million, slightly below its capacity of 3 million.
These six airports currently have a total capacity of 101 million, and will be to 186 million people in 2024, the minister said.
AOT recently organised a workshop, attended by the Architect Council of Thailand, on the expansion of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s northern section. The plan would be handed over to the Ministry of Transportation soon.
The minister also said that he had requested AOT to collaborate with relevant organisations in improving the immigration checking system using Electronic Visa (E-Visa) to lessen density in security checkpoints, provide more convenience for tourists and enhance efficiency in security and affordability of tourism.